Home Cars Top 10 Classic Convertibles

Top 10 Classic Convertibles

by David J

10) MGB Roadster: Year: 1962-1967

MGB Roadster

MGB Roadster / Wikimedia

The MGB was first offered in 1962 and succeeded the MGA. The designers did away with the body-on-frame concept and opted to give the car a monocoque structure. The design was innovative for its time. It also turned out to be lighter and cheaper to produce.

The car was equipped with a 1,798 cc engine which produced 95 hp at 5,400 rpm. Many would consider it puny by today’s standards, but in 1962 these stats made people take notice. The MGB could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just over 11 seconds. The engine was further upgraded in 1964.

The roadster had two seats to start with. A small rear seat was added in a few cars but eventually discontinued in favor of more cabin space. The car’s innovative features included crumple zones for crash safety. Its soft independent front suspension provided a comfortable ride quality.

Overall the MGB Roadster received excellent market response, becoming one of the best selling cars in its class.

9)Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder: Year: 1960-1963

Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder / Wikimedia C

Ferrari produced the 250 sports car from 1953 to 1964. The 250 series became one of Ferrari’s earliest lasting success stories and quite a few variants were produced. One of these was the 250 GT California Spyder SWB.

SWB stands for short wheelbase. Ferrari took their 250 GT Berlinetta and shortened its wheelbase from 2,600 to 2,400 mm. The result was more responsive handling which was further accentuated by the car’s updated chassis.

Ferrari 250 / Wikimedia

The SWB California Spyder got a 3 litre V12 engine which was designed to produce 276 hp. This engine had a remarkable power to weight ratio for its time. Disc brakes, also a novelty for the time, came as standard.

Ferrari built only 106 California Spyders and only about 55 of these beauties were put on the SWB chassis. Those that have survived are now extremely pricey collectors’ items, seen only at auctions if at all, and worth millions.

8) Ford Mustang Convertible: Year: 1964-1965

Ford Mustang Convertible

Ford Mustang Convertible / Image Credit : Sicnag” Flicker

Ford evolved its compact car into the production version of the Mustang in 1964, creating a whole new class. This class came to be known as the ‘pony car’ for being small, fast and sporty. Aficionados dubbed the 1964 Ford Mustang ‘1964½’ because it was unveiled in April of that model year, despite the fact that Ford sold them all as 1965 models.

Mustang was only offered at the time in coupe and convertible versions. A fastback version was added later. The Mustang’s engine was upgraded from 2.8 litres to 3.3 litres, which increased its output from 101 bhp to 120 bhp. Another engine variant, the V8 version, was enlarged from 4.3 to 4.7 litres and went from producing 164 hp to 210 hp.

Mustang’s transmission was also pretty standard, with the choice between three and four speed manual gearboxes. Because of its rapid evolution from an earlier Ford car the Falcon, some Mustangs retained the Falcon logo which had to be hidden or removed.

7) Jaguar E-type Series 1 Roadster: Year: 1961-1967

Jaguar E-type Series 1 Roadster

Jaguar E-type Series 1 Roadster / Image © Wikimedia

When Jaguar first launched its E-type series in 1961, it instantly hit a chord with enthusiasts. The cars were powerful, performed exceptionally for the time and were great to look at. Enzo Ferrari, a prominent rival of Jaguar, called it “the most beautiful car ever made”. Several prominent media publications of the time echoed this opinion.

The E-type series incorporated numerous innovations which were rare in 1961. These included a monocoque construction, disc brakes and independent front and rear suspension. The car could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds and its awesome power gave it a top speed of 150 mph. Jaguar’s roadster and the response it evoked were nothing short of sensational.

The performance of the E-Type is better understood in the context of Jaguar’s D-Type race car which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three years in a row from 1955 to 1957.

6) 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible: Year: 1957

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible /Image © Wikimedia

The Bel Air, first produced by Chevy in 1950, evolved several times over the years and eventually took its place among America’s most popular cars of the time.

Chevy originally made the Bel Air as a hard top with two doors. In 1950 the car’s body was given a new shape to differentiate it from Chevy’s other cars in the class. For 1957 Chevy gave the car a whole new styling, in addition to interior changes and improvements under the hood.

The 1957 Bel Air’s 4.6 litre V8 engine with overhead valves employed a short stroke design to produce high compression and 283 hp. The design featured mechanical fuel injection instead of carburetors, and was decades ahead of its time.

The car was loved by owners for its decent acceleration, great handling and superior ride comfort. The 1957 Bel Air convertible became a true American icon. For many, it remains the most recognizable American automobile of all time.

5) Alfa Romeo Giulia Duetto Spider: Year: 1966-1967

Alfa Romeo Giulia Duetto Spider

Alfa Romeo Giulia Duetto Spider / Image © Wikipedia

Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo produced the Spider from 1966 to 1993. So successful and robust was the car that very few changes were made to its core design in nearly three decades of production. The car was offered in multiple versions including saloon and coupe.

Spider’s 1,570 cc (1.6 litre) double overhead twin cam engine produced 108 hp and was quite advanced for the time. The car featured a five speed manual transmission, independent front suspension, a live rear axle and disc brakes on all four wheels. The car’s top speed of 118 mph was more than decent. The engine was eventually upgraded to 2.0 litres.

The ‘Duetto’ name came from a naming contest with primarily Italian participants. On the inside the Giulia Duetto was more functional than luxurious. Alfa Romeo strategically priced the car to compete with the likes of the Jaguar E-Type and the MGB Roadster, which were other prominent cars to desire during 1966-67.

4) Porsche 356: Year: 1948-1955

Porsche 356

Porsche 356 / Image © Wikimedia Commons

Created not long after the end of World War II, the Porsche 356 became Porsche’s first automobile to be mass produced for the general public. While Ferdinand Porsche designed the VW Beetle as a people’s car, his son Ferry Porsche designed the 356 to be a sports car.

Like the Beetle, the 356 had a rear mounted, four cylinder, air-cooled engine and rear wheel drive. Designer Ferry Porsche was a sports car enthusiast. His philosophy was to make an overpowered, small and light car which could handle well. The result was a beautiful design and a very agile car.

Initially the car remained less known, but after winning prominent races of the time it gained prominence. Owners loved their 356’s for the handling and superlative Porsche build quality. The 365 became so successful that Porsche continued to produce it for the next 18 years. The car was offered in multiple variants including convertible and coupe. Eventually more than 76,000 were sold.

3) Mercedes-Benz 190 SL: Year: 1955-1963

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL

Mercedes-Benz 190 SL / Image © Wikimedia Commons

Mercedes-Benz took the styling from their 300 SL and created an even more attractive, new roadster in the 190 SL.

Several design and performance changes ensured that the 190 SL was much more than a shortened 300 SL. It dispensed with the tubular spaceframe design and used a shortened monocoque base structure. It also had fully independent suspension with double wishbones in the front.

The 190 SL got a 1.9 litre straight four engine with overhead cams. This engine was a derivate of the 300 SL’s power pack and produced 104 hp. The super luxurious two door 190 SL was offered as a soft-top and a removable hardtop variant.

This classic German sports car was particularly successful the US, where more than 40% of all 190 SLs were sold. 26,000 units were eventually manufactured. Production was discontinued in 1963 when another Mercedes-Benz model succeeded the 190 SL.

2) Shelby Cobra: Year: 1963-1965

Shelby Cobra 427

Shelby Cobra 427 © David Hurt / Flicker

This iconic American car was originally designed by Auto Carriers Ltd, one of Britain’s oldest independent auto makers. Starting life as the AC Cobra and first produced in 1962, the car was sold in the US as the Shelby Cobra.

The car was given a steel tube frame. Its body and aluminum panels were hand crafted using legacy tools and techniques. This method predates the Second World War. It was slow and also made the craftsmanship expensive.

The Cobra was built on Carrol Shelby’s specific request to AC for a car that could handle a V8. AC extended the front end to fit the bigger engine and gave the car a bigger differential to handle the extra power. The engine was equally novel. Ford produced a new 4.3 litre lightweight, small block V8 engine tuned specifically for the Shelby Cobra.

Subsequent models were fitted with a larger 4.7 litre V8, bigger tires and wider fenders. The Shelby Cobra was a racetrack beast and quickly got noticed as a great performer.

1) Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible: Year: 1957-1960

Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible

Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible / © Wikipedia

Cadillac first unveiled the Eldorado in 1953 and went on to produce ten generations of the car over five decades. Since its conception till about 1966, the Eldorado Biarritz represented the very best of Cadillac’s luxurious lineup of cars.

Cadillac made cars that were opulent and ostentatious. Garish fenders, prominent chrome bumpers, large chrome grills, sculpted curves, beauty panels and bold colors were the order of the day. The Eldorado’s signature fenders were called shark fins.

The 1957 Cadillac Eldorado was offered in convertible and hardtop versions. The convertible variant was called the Biarritz. Cadillac also offered a specialty four door hardtop sedan version called the Seville.

A 6.4 litre engine provided an output of 345 hp. Automatic transmission was standard, as were power brakes and power steering. The car also boasted a comfortable air suspension and six way power seats.

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